A recent report by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) concluded that in 2009 approximately 20 percent of American adults had some form of mental illness. That comes out to 45 million Americans. The report states that 11 million of those people had a serious illness. Women reported a higher incidence of mental illness than men, and adults 18-25 reported the highest level of mental illness of any age group.
The SAMHSA numbers are an estimate based on responses to questionnaires given to representative samples. The overall “any mental illness” statistic purports to include only people who have a “diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder,” excluding developmental or substance abuse disorders. The study’s determination of mental illness in adults was based on modeling the survey participants’ responses to questions on “distress” and “impairment.” The report suggests increases in the unemployment rate had an impact on the 2009 statistics.
I recognize that many Americans struggle with mental disorders, but I seriously doubt that 1 in 5 Americans has a true diagnosable mental illness. I suspect that many government studies are structured to produce a result that reveals a problem that needs to be resolved through increased funding and more government-payroll jobs. The comments of the SAMHSA administrator in response to the 2009 survey results, quoted in the link above, certainly reach that conclusion — that there are many Americans who need help and treatment that aren’t getting it, and through “health care reform” and federal legislation they can get such treatment.